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Tour de France: The History, the Legend, the Riders Hardcover – 1 May 1999
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'A complex picture of what one of the world's greatest sporting events feels like from the inside.' -- The Independent
'One of the best books on the Tour yet - not to be missed.' -- Cycle Sport
'Stuffed full of good material...anevocative account, good on the hardship that makes the Tour an examination of the human spirit.' -- The Independent
'This is a difficult book to put down. Fife has a keen eye for detail.' -- Phil Liggett, television commentator, Daily Telegraph
This is a beast of a book which teems with energy.' -- The Glasgow Herald
An all-encompassing history of the Tour de France that brings the story right up to date with all the action from the 2013 race --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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This interest soon wained, though. I found this book very hard going- to the point of nearly being boring. It is complete, and very knowledgeable, but is a bit nerdy. I am passionate about cycling- but this is the next stage. It is almost as if the author wanted to show everyone how much he knows.
And there is little continuity throughout. It rambles like a pub conversation, jumping from year to year, decade to decade, like an alcoholic slips from grape to hop. Like many cycling books, it mixes the authors experiences with history- and suffers for this.
Another thing I found discerning is the bolt on at the end of the last tours since 1988- in year progression. Yes, these sections were well wrote, and interesting, but it marks a complete polar change in the writing style off the book, which under minds it. It is obvious that they are added on each year, which is fine- but the events of the previous year are not up dated. I also find it interesting that the dehydration, which Lance Armstrong (which the author is clearly not the biggest fan of) suffered in 2003 is not touched on.
Did I learn from the book? Yes. But it suffers from the coldness of a text book, without the warmth of a biography.
The first half is a description of the tour's great climbs which allows the author to delve into the fascinating history of this extraordinary event. So climbs in the Pyrenees give him the opportunity to pay homage to Fabio Casartelli who was killed in 1995 on a descent, the Mont Ventoux of course brings in Tommy Simpson. Eddy Mercx, Raymond Poulidor, Jacques Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, all the great names feature. Further back in the tour's history we come across extraordinary tales. For instance, the tour leader whose front forks broke on a descent. He carried the bike down the mountain until he found a village with a forge. He then welded new front forks from scratch, himself, completely unaided for the most part. This added hours to his time. Throughout this ordeal, he was watched by officials to ensure that he didn't get any assistance. He was then penalised an extra 20 minutes because he allowed a boy to help him by blowing bellows to fan the fire - something he could not possibly have done unaided. He continued, several hours behind the lead. Quite extraordinary resourcefulness. There are loads of stories like this. And Fife suffering the same climbs - albeit on better road surfaces and without the risk of being eaten by bears or being lost in a blizzard - bridges between these extraordinary people and what a good but not exceptional cyclist could do today. It works well and I was enthralled.
The main complaint so far is that the emphasis is on the mountain stages and not on the sprint stages or on the timetrials to anything like the smae extent. But I suppose that the drama of the mountains is the essence of the tour. And Fife clearly has people he doesn't care for - for instance Greg Lemond comes across in a very unsympathetic light. And to quibble a bit more, Fife comes across as a bit of a bighead. OK so he got to the top of the climbs quicker than his touring companions - so what?
But overall the first half was a pleasure and kept me turning the pages. Shame about the second half.
We then go into a poorly edited and highly opinionated account of the tours since 1999. Unfortunately this is the era of domination by Lance Armstrong so many of the races are relatively unexciting (compared for instance to 1989 or some of the tours described briefly earlier in the book - e.g. the Poulidor/Anquetil struggles). Not all of them by any means, but a period of seven straight wins, followed by a tour tainted by drugs, is not the most engaging of reads.
The editing is poor. Each account seems to have been written shortly after the end of the tour and earlier accounts could have done with a review to bring them up to date. And some extraordinary statements come out on drugs. Fife is very unsympathetic towards people who opposed the drugs culture in the sport and claims at one point that no sport has as strong anti drugs controls as cycling. Er, what? Compare rowing, which has nothing like the same drugs culture, or the efforts made to clean up athletics. This was before the 2006 and 2007 tours and frankly such statements are embarrassing and should have been edited out, or at least reflected upon. I love the tour but it is not served by its obvious problems being minimised.
The book is worth buying for the first half. If I were the publishers, I would ask for a complete revision of the second half before I published another edition.
Part of this was due to his attack on Paul Kimmage's Rough Ride where he abuses the author for breaking the rule of peleton by talking about doping. Frankly, after that, his credibility for me dived.
On many occasions I was forced to re-read sections, as the prose darted off to introduce thoughts that were obviously circulating around the authors head and just had to be pinned down there and then.
This was the first book I had read about the world of Pro cycling, and I was very taken with the excitement of the events and the results, which came through despite the writing.
The Unknown TDF by Les Woodland makes an interesting counter to this book; less partisan, more readable and certainly better proofed than this volume.
One for cyclists only.
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